It is arguable that getting the bathroom right is the room which will make the biggest difference for a person living with a disability. So often a complete block to accessibility and independence, there are two elements to a bathroom which can make the difference: the layout and the equipment. This page is designed to support the buying and selling of secondhand and preloved bathing, showering and toileting equipment for older and disabled people.
Please get in touch if you think we should include further detail or links on any item or if you want more information.
With all this equipment there are plenty of suppliers about and so take time to research on the web and ask any information and advice organisations. In the Further Reading section, we have linked to some long standing information websites. Please be aware that suggestions and advice from websites such as independentliving.co.uk are paid promotional sites based on charging a fee from the featured suppliers and companies. This doesn't necessary disclude the information provided as long as you are aware that this is how it's run. If a website offers something for nothing, they should always be able to tell you how they are funded.
The sheer volume of equipment and suppliers that exist means we cannot cover everything in this article. Instead we hope to give an overview on what types of equipment are available, in order to direct your own research.
Bathing Aids & Equipment
If you're starting to struggle to get in and out of a bath, you'll need to decide whether you need mobility bathing aids to help you with your existing bath or whether you actually need / want a specifically designed accessible bath?My key piece of advice here is that you should routinely check safety equipment to ensure that bolts or suction grip is maintained and adequate for the intended use, particularly with cheaper models and brands.
Bathroom Steps: these come in an astonishing variety. Look out for grip BOTH on the top surface so you don't slip when wet AND on the underside so it doesn't slip on the bathroom floor. Also they are available WITH and WITHOUT handrails depending on the level of security and stability you need.
Bath Grab Rails: there are grab rails which fit to the bath, the wall or the taps giving you plenty of scope to get what suits you for both grab style and ease or security of installation. Also, you can buy anything for cheap plastic to sleeker and more attractive chrome and stainless steel. Some grab rails are also designed with double functionality - to hide the clinical nature of this wall furniture - such as toiletry shelves, loo paper holders, soap dish holders, etc... You can even get ergonically designed poles which fix from floor to ceiling. If you want to use a suction grab rail, beware as the cheaper ones can come unstuck pretty easily. I use a product from Roth Mobeli. For further information, read this bath rail guide.
Tap Turners: if dexterity has become an issue, then buying a tap turner can be a significantly cheaper alternative to changing your taps.
Bath Boards: are designed to go across the bath enabling you to stage your sitting, or shower in the bath if you have a handheld shower head. These are available in hard plastic or wood, or with cushioning, can be solid or with drainage slats and holes, and with or without integral handles. Some variants have a combination seat, staging your descent into the bath. This seat can be solid or with a horseshoe cut out, aiding personal hygiene.
Bath Hoists: may be manual or electrical. The post of the hoist needs to be secured to the floor. You sit in the sit, are raised up, over the bath threshhold, swivelled around over the bath and then lowered into the bath. Check the temperature first!! For further information, read this bath hoist guide.
Bath Lifts: are slightly different from bath hoists. A bath lift is a seat which sits in the bath and raises and lowers between the bottom and top of the bath. There are many designs which range from hard to cushioned and ergonmic, with or without straps and perform the raising in a variety of ways: e.g. axis lift or inflatable lift. For further information, read this bath lift guide.
Bath Seats: are simpler products and either sit on the bath floor or hang from the side of the bath and make bathing easier for people who struggle to sit on the bath floor. You can also get bath seats which swivel making it easier to sit from the side of the bath and then align once legs are in. Again, you can opt for hard or cushioned versions with or without horseshoe cutouts to facilitate personal hygiene.
Bath Cushions, Mats and Pillows: increase the comfort of the bather. Many designs exist and will support many different parts of the body. They range from small cushions which secure to the bath using suction pads, to big blocks which shorten a bath for safety. They may be inflatable, gel filled or cushioned and waterproofed. If you have pressure issues then getting the right product is essential and you should seek professional advice prior to using any product.
Bath Safety Aids: there are lots of neat little ideas and gadgets out there. Chances are that if you're thinking "I wish I could find something which..." then someone else has had the same thought and produced it! Here are a few ideas from Complete Care Shop:
The Magiplug Bath Plug is an ingenious bathing safety device that minimises the risks of scalds and overflows caused by taps being left to run too long. It has an internal pressure release mechanism that enables the user to set the water level to a specific depth. Any water above that level is allowed to escape, so it will prevent flooding and subsequent damage to the property if a tap is left unattended. The plug also incorporates a heat sensitive pad that will change colour when the temperature reaches 36 degrees Celsius. This provides a useful visual warning about the possibility of over heating.
A Mobility and Toileting Aid Alarm may be fixed to various mobility aids and rails using adjustable straps and can draw people's attention to a possible emergency situation. If the user feels under threat or if they need urgent assistance, they can press a button and the system will produce a very loud warning sound. The siren is capable of producing 130dB so it can be heard from a good distance and will help to prompt a quick response.
A Floating Bath Thermometer with Alarm with a large digital display that accurately displays the water temperature in either Centigrade or Fahrenheit as well as incorporating a useful clock function. The large LCD display enables the user or carer to quickly view the water temperature. The Floating Bath Thermometer can be pre-set with a maximum temperature setting which when reached the numbers on the LCD display flash.
Non-Slip Strips and Spots is adhesive tape or patches which offer exceptional grip and stability for those that may be unsteady on their feet therefore massively reducing the risk of slippages in the bath. These strips are highly discrete but make all the difference. Ideal for use within an care setting these highly durable, long lasting Non-Slip Strips are extremely hygienic as they will not harbour bacteria and are very easily cleaned. Specially designed to offer maximum user safety these Non-Slip Bath Strips are most effective when used in areas that are regularly wet such as wet floors, baths, shower trays and wet rooms.
Showering Aids & Equipment
For many people living with a mobility impairment a shower can be much easier to navigate than a bath. Certainly for wheelchair users living with neuro and muscular conditions, the bathroom layout and environment is everything. It's sounds obvious saying it, however, if you're about to embark on a bath or shower room renovation project, getting professional advice could save you thousands and go on forums to see what lessons others have learned the hard way! For me, wetrooms are the holy grail, but see my other information for a few tips which I've learned along the way. There is also a load of equipment for showering. Essentially, in terms of showering equipment it's all about the seating:
Shower Stools (or perching stools) are for ambulant people who can't stand for long periods. These come in height adjustable, hard, cushioned, with or without handles, with or without backs, shaped for corners, strengthened for bariatric use.
Shower Chairs offer a greater degree of comfort and support than a shower stool. They can be designed solely for shower use or with a horseshoe cut out and adequate height to fit over a loo as a Shower Commode Chair. For further information, read this shower chair guide.
Shower Commode Chairs are designed to go over the toilet and be used in a (wheel in or flat floor) shower. The horseshoe cut-out can face any way (forwards, backwards, left or right) depending on user preference and need. They can be independent (self-propelled) with large rear wheels and push rims or assisted with four smaller caster wheels and handles. Some have an attachable bucket in cases where it is not possible to put the chair over the loo. These are big and often heavy items, which are great in one's own bathroom, but a bit of a bugger to lug around when visiting elsewhere. Some variants do dismantle but their size don't usually offer greater degrees of independence (scroll down to our travel section).
Wall Mounted (or Fold Down or Drop Down) Shower Seats are great space savers and are a more flexible option when you're sharing shower space with an able-bodied person. They fix to the wall and fold down. Varianbles include how the load is supported (i.e. support or feet on the floor or no feet and weight passed back through the wall mounting plate - personally, I think there's a lot less to go wrong when the weight is supported vertically even if it doesn't look as elegant), materials used and look (e.g. chrome, powder-coated, etc..), hard seat, cushioned seat, horseshoe cut out or not, arm rests (fold up or swing out) and back rest. Generally, I find hotels and guesthouses use hard, solid fold down shower seats which, for this paraplegic, are hopeless (I know, I know, how difficult is it to cater for all disabilities and individuals???) and I end up taking my own travel shower chair or bath seat.
Shower Screen: you can get portable shower screens which are designed to keep water within one area of a wet room or wheel in shower. These can be excellent for the elderly or disabled who require assistance to shower, protecting legs from getting soaked. They fold away and store neatly where space is tight too.
Shower Trolleys and Benches (or nursing tables) offer comprehensive support for people with certain injuries or real mobility issues. They can be free standing, wall mounted or on wheels, fixed height, height adjustable, hard or cushioned, electrically or manually operated (raised and lowered). Some are designed as a mobile bath.
Tilt in Space Shower Chairs are much more supportive and versatile shower chairs for people with severely restricted mobility. As the name suggests, they can tilt the user back offering more support and ability to wash the user more easily and comfortably. They may be combined with a commode. And they maybe adjusted manually or electrically. If you need one of these, chances are you're aware of the variables and options available. If not, seek professional OT advice.
Specialist Shower Seating Products: there are a few specialist products which have thought through certain accessibility, financial and spacial constraints and come up with their own clever solutions. If you can stomach the slightly American video style for Shower Buddy below, it's quite neat.
For some reason, TRAVEL and SHOWER CHAIR are three words which don't seem to appear together at all often. Scroll down for further information on this.
Toileting Aids & Equipment
There are a number of products which will help people with disabilities use the loo with ease and dignity, aiding independence or care assistance where it is needed.
Automatic Showering Toilets: are expensive bits of kit bought new, which can wash and dry the user once they have finished their business. They need professional installation and, as you'd expect, have a host of variables including height adjustability, no-touch or remote controls, pressure relieving cushioned seats.
Toilet Plinths, Seat Risers and Supports: whether it's the height of loo, struggling to sit or struggling to stand (or both) there are a variety of ways of helping the user ease themself on and off the throne.
Plinths are the simplest, yet often most effective, of solutions. A step can give users the extra height they need to get onto and off the loo. Or for others it helps provide a more natural squatting position whilst sitting normally on the toilet, aiding the natural position for passing stools - not the shower type... :)
Simple and inexpensive toilet frame surrounds, which are easy to install. These may have an integral loo seat or they may be no more than a frame to support sitting and standing. They can be fixed or foldable for transport, have padded arms or even a chemical loo incorporated.
Assisted seat risers are powered, which can be by battery or mains. Some will tilt the loo seat while others will also rise helping users with joint or back conditions. Controls may be built in or via a remote control. They can be integral models or retrofit.
Comfort and Pressure Relief: where pressure is an issue, (for people with poor skin viabilty, atrophied bums and legs, or who spend long periods doing their bowel routines) there are a number of ways of providing pressure relief: ergonomic shaping, inflatable cushioning (my favourite, like the one made by DBT Medical Ltd) or padded cushioning.
Travel Bathroom Aids
This has always been my area of most frustration when it comes to ablutions. People with disabilities want to travel, go on holiday and visit friends and having a lightweight, foldable solution would be ideal. I would LOVE To hear from anyone who knows of any other great travel products for people with disabilities: please, PLEASE get in touch!!! There are one or two products worth a mention:
Goes Anywhere travel shower chairs are designed and sold by a tetraplegic as the answer to his own problems with showering away from home. There are various product options now and watching the website over the years, it looks as though this product and small business has grown. He is based in the US and sells internationally. Go! Mobility Solutions have a whole batch of videos here on YouTube.
Wheelable is the winner of the 2015 NAEP Product Innovation award. Just 6 clicks folds the wheelchair commode into a lightweight, compact, carry-on bag. It's a solid plastic design reinforced with stainless steel components. Safe up to 100kgs user weight. It weighs just 11kgs. Various accessories depending on your requirements.
Nuprodx is another U.S. company specialising in showering products for travel.
For a while I had these affordable Travel Shower and Bath Seats made while I was trading on DisabledGear.com. They were excellent for what they did, though, like all equipment, had limitations for some users. They are lightweight at 5kgs, fit in hold luggage (and you can pack around them giving independence if you're travelling alone) and enabled me to shower in some very inaccessible places!
Companies With Bathroom Products Worth a Mention (please email through and share any other worthies):
Top of my list is Ropox. Just have a look at the Ropox Bathroom Products (landing page) to see how design and function can combine. Lord love those Danes!